Russian Words



Did you know?

  • 5.28 characters is an average length of Russian words (Source: http://bokrcorpora.narod.ru/frqlist/frqlist-en.html)
  • There are 10.38 words in a Russian sentence on average (the same source as above)
  • Most frequently used letters in Russian words are о (9.28%), а (8.66%), е (8.10%), и (7.45%), н (6.35%) (Source: http://spectator.ru/life/language/letter_frequency)
  • The most common words in the Russian language (Source: http://dict.ruslang.ru/freq.php):
    • Top 5 Russian nouns: год (year), человек (person), время (time), дело (affair, business, work, occupation), жизнь (life)
    • Top 5 Russian verbs: быть (be), мочь (be able, can, may), сказать (say, tell), говорить (speak, talk), хотеть (want)
    • Top 5 Russian adjectives: новый (new), хороший (good), должный (due, proper), последний (last), российский (of the Russian Federation, Russian)
    • Top 5 Russian adverbs and predicate nouns: только (only, merely), еще (still, yet, another, else, as long ago as, as early as), уже (already), очень (very), раз (once)
    • Top 5 Russian pronouns: я (I), что (what), он (he), как (how), этот (this, that)
    • Top 5 Russian numerals: один (one), первый (first), два (two), три (three), второй (second)

Native Russian words

The modern Russian vocabulary has been formed during centuries. It is based on native Russian words. A native Russian word is generally regarded as a word coined in the Russian language according to models existing in Russian or transferred to Russian from ancestor languages: Old Russian, Common Slavic, or Proto-Indo-European.

The Proto-Indo-European language existed in remote antiquity (4000 centuries B.C.) and did not have a writing system. With time, the proto language of tribes that lived in Europe differentiated into dialects. Modern European languages trace their roots to these dialects.

The dialect of tribes that were ancestors of Slavic nations also diverged from the Proto-Indo-European language. That dialect was called Common Slavic and did not have a writing system either. In the 1st millennium A.D. tribes that spoke Common Slavic widely settled in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and gradually lost their common dialect/language.

By the 6th–7th centuries A.D., the Common Slavic language broke up into Southern Slavic, Western Slavic and Eastern Slavic (the Old Russian language) language groups. Old Russian became the language of the Old Russian nationality that united into a state (Kievan Rus) in the 9th century. In the 14th century, Old Russian broke up into Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian.

So the native Russian vocabulary consists of the following four layers:

  1. Proto-Indo-European: Words that have cognates in many other Indo-European languages. For example: быть (be), три (three), мать (mother). These words are native not only for Russian, but for many other Indo-European languages.
  2. Common Slavic: Words that have cognates in many Slavic languages. For example: сердце (heart), добрый (kind), весна (spring). Indo-European and Common Slavic layers account for only 2,000 words in the Russian language. However, these words make up 25 % of words Russians use in everyday language.
  3. Old Russian: Words that were coined during the period of Kievan Rus. These words are common for Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian languages. Examples: вместе (together), сорок (forty), ложка (spoon).
  4. Proper Russian: Words that were created after the 14th century, i.e. after the dissolution of Kievan Rus. These are almost all words with suffixes -чик (-chik), -щик (-schik), -тельств (-tel'stv), -лк (-lk), -лка (-lka), -ность (nost') and many other: бабушка (grandmother), летчик (pilot), пароход (steamer).
  5. (Source: http://www.gramota.ru/book/litnevskaya.php?part3.htm#13)

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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